Tales from the Trail

Bipartisanship on the White House menu

At a White House dinner with Senate and House leaders from both parties and their spouses, President Barack Obama got a standing ovation when he mentioned the demise of Osama bin Laden in his welcome.

“Last night, as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of  Osama bin Laden…” Obama said.

At that point, he was interrupted by the standing ovation.

“We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for and what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics,” Obama continued after the applause subsided.

The Monday evening dinner had been on the books for a few weeks, but Obama said it could not have come at a more fitting time.

A day earlier, he had announced that bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. assault on a  compound in Pakistan — ending a nearly decade-long manhunt.

“Minutes passed like days” for U.S. officials watching bin Laden op

It took almost a decade for the United States to find al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But when it came to the final act, time went into slow motion  for U.S. officials holding their breath and hoping the raid in Pakistan would go off without a hitch.

White House counterterrorism official John Brennan, a former CIA officer who has been after bin Laden for 15 years, described the scene in the White House Situation Room where President Barack Obama and other national security officials gathered to monitor the U.S. operation in real-time.

“It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday,” Brennan told reporters at the White House.

McCain says Trump having fun, Republicans have serious candidates for 2012

Republican Senator John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, made clear that he doesn’t see Donald Trump as a serious candidate for 2012.

“I think Mr. Trump is having a lot of fun and it’s pretty clear he enjoys the limelight.  We have very serious candidates.  And I think that, if Mr. Trump wants to run, he’s welcome to run,” McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

(Ouch!) 

That came a day after Trump attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where Obama and comedian Seth Meyers told cutting jokes about the New York real estate magnate.

Washington Extra – Syria slap

Reuters correspondent Mark Hosenball got early word that the White House was going to slap additional sanctions on Syria including on the brother and cousin of President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials then told White House correspondent Matt Spetalnick that President Barack Obama had signed an executive order for sanctions today, showing that no Syrian official was “immune” from repercussions if the violence against protesters didn’t stop.

A not-so-veiled message was that while President Assad was not on the list, that shoe could drop too if the crackdown did not end. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 48 civilians were killed in pro-democracy demonstrations today.

Washington Extra – Changing hats

The national security musical chairs was made official today by President Barack Obama.

On stage was a daisy-chain of Washington insiders who have worn many hats over the years and criss-crossed different administrations. They all report to Commander-in-Chief Obama, who by comparison appeared a relative newcomer.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former senator and first lady, was there to welcome back into the fold Ryan Crocker, who was chosen to be ambassador to Afghanistan.

Obama has ‘better stuff’ to do than birth certificate ‘sideshows’

President Barack Obama tried to put the kibosh on birther speculation by releasing his Hawaiian birth certificate and calling questions about the authenticity of the document a distraction from bigger issues by “sideshows and carnival barkers.”

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” he said to reporters after the White House released a long-form copy of his birth certificate. Potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stirred up the controversy in recent weeks by demanding Obama prove he was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.

“We’ve got better stuff to do.  I’ve got better stuff to do,” Obama said. “We’ve got big problems to solve, and I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them, not on this.”

Obama to make statement about birth certificate

The White House on Wednesday released a longer version of President Barack Obama’s U.S. birth certificate to try to quiet a debate within Republican circles that he was not born in the United States. The new document confirms what a shorter version has said, that Obama was born in Hawaii on Aug 4, 1961, but provides a little more information, such as that he was born at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital.

Obama is to make a White House statement at 9:45 am EDT about the controversy, which you can watch live on this page.

 

The White House and the silver bullet defense

Verbal silver bullets were flying all over the White House press briefing today.

“There is no silver bullet” has become the White House phrase for telling the public it has no magical solution for combating rising gasoline prices. With gas prices at the pump over $4 a gallon, the translation for the 2012 presidential campaign is: don’t blame us.

“The truth is, there’s no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away,” President Barack Obama said in his weekend address.

White House spokesman Jay Carney latched onto the phrase during the daily media briefing, and reporters ran with it too.

Obama’s new talking point: 2012 may be harder race to win

hands_obamaAs part of his strategy to raise money and excitement for his re-election bid, President Barack Obama and his advisers are starting to use a new warning: winning in 2012 may be harder than it was in 2008.

For a incumbent Democratic president who is routinely beating potential Republican rivals in polls, it may seem a bit early to paint oneself as the underdog.

But Obama and his team want to make it clear that it won’t be a cakewalk to hold on to the White House, even though this time around the former Illinois senator is not an unknown figure.

Former “start-up” Obama wouldn’t mind being as popular as…SpongeBob

obama_sanfranHe’s been president of the United States for about two-and-a-half  years, but Barack Obama still remembers being a “start-up” — and he wouldn’t mind being as popular as SpongeBob SquarePants.

The Democratic president, who is in the middle of a road show to sell his ideas for cutting the deficit, spent the evening in San Francisco on Wednesday raising money for his campaign, and he targeted tech-savvy donors who had started successful companies of their own.

“Some of you are involved in start-ups, well I was a start-up just not so long ago,” Obama told a dinner fundraiser at the home of Marc Benioff, the chief executive of salesforce.com.